A message has been doing the rounds on WhatsApp suggesting that voters can register a ‘challenge vote’ if they realise that their names are missing from the electoral rolls. “When you reach polling booth and find that your name is not in voter list, just show your Aadhaar card or voter ID and ask for 'challenge vote' under section 49A and cast your vote,” the viral message reads, “If you find that someone has already cast your vote, then ask for 'tender vote' and cast your vote. If any polling booth records more than 14% tender votes, repolling will be conducted in such polling booth."
Fact check: Only one part of the message is true, and the rest is fake news.
The first part of the message which mentions Section 49A is wrong. Section 49A of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 talks about the design of electronic voting machines, and there’s no mention of a ‘challenge vote’ in this or any other section of the rules.
Section 49A, in fact, states: “Every electronic voting machine (hereinafter referred to as the voting machine) shall have a control unit and a balloting unit and shall be of such designs as may be approved by the Election Commission.”
Long story short, if your name is not on the electoral rolls, you cannot vote. You can check if your name is present in the electoral rolls on the Election Commission website here. If your name is on the electoral rolls, but you do not have a voter ID, any one of the following documents can be used as identity proof: Aadhaar card, passport, driving licence, PAN card, passbooks (with photo) issued by bank or post office, service identity cards issued by PSA or public limited companies, smart card issued by the RGI under the NPR, MGNREGA job card, health insurance smart card issued under the Ministry of Labour, and official identity cards issued to MPs/MLAs/MLCs.
The Sarkar-fame Section 49P
The second part of the viral message, regarding ‘tender vote’ meanwhile is partly accurate. Remember the Vijay film Sarkar? The protagonist in the film found that someone had already cast a vote in his name and he demanded that he be allowed cast his vote – and the film then talks about Section 49P of the Election Commission rules.
If you find that someone has already registered a vote under your name, you can register a complaint with the presiding officer at the booth, and after verification, the officer can issue them a ‘tendered ballot paper’ to cast your vote, as per Section 49P.
Section 49P of the Conduct of Elections states: “If a person representing himself to be a particular elector seeks to vote after another person has already voted as such elector, he shall, on satisfactorily answering such questions relating to his identity as the presiding officer may ask, be, instead of being allowed to vote through the balloting unit, supplied with a tendered ballot paper which shall be of such design, and the particulars of which shall be in such language or languages as the Election Commission may specify.”
‘Tendered votes’ are locked and sealed away, and only counted in cases where the margin of votes between candidates is very thin, and these votes can decide the winner.
However, if a candidate secures victory by a large number of votes, these tendered votes are not usually considered since they cannot tip the scales in any manner.
The Rules, however, make no mention of re-polling – that is, the part of the viral message that says any polling booth recording more than 14% tender votes will lead to repolling, is fake.
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